Being an entrepreneur is a little like being a musician. There are countless kids singing in choirs and carrying guitars but only a handful will ever record a hit song.Some of the not-so-lucky eventually pick themselves up and build a better career that the lucky handful, by hard work and sheer luck. There’s as much luck in entrepreneurship as there is in any other shoot-the-moon career. And sometimes it really is more about who you know than what you know.
In the end, any measure of success will come down to five critical areas of knowledge.
Know marketing. Know how to get your idea out. Know the different theories on the cutting edge of the marketing world. Know what’s working for other companies like yours. Know where marketing is going to go. If you subscribe to only one magazine, make it a marketing industry journal. Great ideas aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if they aren’t marketed effectively. CIO East Africa is my bet.
During the very first stage of your undertaking finance won’t matter. It will just be you or you and your partners, putting in long hours to create the first iteration of what you believe will be a great online business. After that, money matters a lot. Knowing finance will help to instill confidence in your investors; knowing how to use funding when it becomes available will help your business to grow; knowing how to invest and expand as you achieve success will help to turn you into one of the winners.
In the early stages of building your company, you are going to inspire people to contribute far beyond what you’re paying them for. You’re going to have to sell the excellence of your idea in order to compel excellence from your contractors and employees. You can’t do that if all your passion is wrapped up in your idea and your ambition. You have to have some of that passion (and compassion) left over for the people you engage. Remember: if you make every one of your early employees a winner, you’ll win by default. If you make them losers, you’ll fail.
Most startups begin by outsourcing most of the technical processes involved in running the business. But outsourcing isn’t an excuse for not knowing technology. You should still operate as your own CIO, even if it means taking IT courses while you’re working toward launch.
No man is an island. No company is an island either. The network that you build, through school or through professional contacts, is going to have a huge influence on your ability to make your company work. While you build your network through work and play, in person and online, your contacts are building their networks as well, and when it comes time to make critical choices – a crucial hire, solicitation of funding, etc. – having that well established network in place can mean the difference between success and failure.